You’re Getting a Doctorate, So Why Get Another Degree?
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When I tell people that I want to get a master of public health degree alongside my doctor of physical therapy degree (DPT), that's a question that I'm presented with more often than not.
I'm studying to be a physical therapist (PT); shouldn't a DPT degree be enough? The answer to that question has its roots in my career goals and what it's going to take to get there.
The DPT degree offers the basis to treat any patient population, but as our profession grows, PTs striving to be expert clinicians are increasingly turning to residency programs to hone their skills and become board-certified clinical specialists.
In a similar way, I've realized that I want my area of expertise to be in a different area than clinical care.
After being exposed to health care policy and physical therapy advocacy through my experience as a student, I know that my greatest potential for impact in the profession will be through those avenues.
After arriving at that understanding, I started to search for other health care professionals who are tackling policy and advocacy to see how they navigated their careers.
Many of them understood that their clinical education supports their pursuits, but there's a knowledge gap between a newly graduated clinician and those who want to engage in the health care policy world. My desire to fill that gap as a student drove me to approach my professors to explore the possibility of dual enrolling in the master of public health program at my school, specializing in public policy.
Clinical and public health education overlapping allows me to apply a different lens to the physical therapy profession and what can be done to drive it forward.
My goal is to help lead this profession into a new era as so many of our predecessors have done for us.
The better the policies that govern us as PTs and physical therapist assistants, the more patients we can help, and the more patients we can help, the closer we are to improving the health of society.
Many students have clinical passions, and specializing through a residency program is the perfect way to set up a career surrounding a specific population. But if you find yourself interested in other areas besides direct patient care, embrace it.
As much as physical therapy needs expert clinicians, we also need people to support the profession in other ways. Whether it's through public health, health administration, business, or something else entirely, explore your interests and how you can mold your education to fit your career.
Nick O'Hanlon, SPT, is a student at The Ohio State University. You can connect with Nick on Twitter at @NickOHanlonSPT.